Philanthropy should be the only reality fit for television

Which of the following would you rather hear shouted in your neighborhood: “Bus driver, move that bus!” or “Here comes Honey Boo Boo”?

Admittedly, I would pray most of us would choose No. 1. Honey Boo Boo would receive nothing but zeroes and sympathy from me if I were a toddler beauty pageant judge.

It’s no exaggeration to say reality television now dominates the pages of the TV Guide. It’s my firm belief network producers can craft a show about almost anything and put it on air.

Think about it: what profession or hobby hasn’t received the reality show treatment? Bakers, wedding dress store owners, tattoo artists, antique collectors who raid derelict storage compartments, bounty hunters, and so on.

I can see the appeal in the idea of those types of reality programs, because somebody, somewhere, sits on a sofa with nagging thoughts about what it would be like to be a meter maid. Right.

Then there are the reality shows that just won’t die. Can you survive 30 days on an island? Can you cook a 5-star-quality meal with a lunatic yelling obscenities at you? Are you willing to sing on national televison and expose yourself to potentially dream-killing ridicule?

Not sure about that third one? At least you have three “different” shows to audition for.

With a plunge into the depths of society, we come up for air in what appears to be shows about people sitting around doing nothing.

What? No volunteers? These are some of the most popular!

I don’t know about you, but I could watch the Kardashians sit around and bemoan their problems all day long.

But quality networks like MTV know exactly what it’s like to be a teenager, right? Hmm. There’s only marathons about pregnant teenage mothers and overtanned, fist-pumping airheads used to stereotype people of a particular European-American background.

Beware if you’re still on board with all of these references. Keep telling yourself you don’t watch that much television.

If there’s any redemption to be had from reality television, philanthropy shows have kept the genre’s head above water.

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” comes to mind. While the elaborate home improvements have on occasion harmed more than helped (read: foreclosure), the heart of the show was originally intended to assist families who had to live in overtly unhealthy homes.

A gem clearly too bright for MTV’s pocket, “The Buried Life,” only lasted two seasons. In it four 20-somethings traveled the country crossing activities off their bucket lists.

The catch? While the zany list items were the focus of each episode, the boys vowed to help strangers make their bucket list dreams a reality. Estranged parents were often reunited with their children.

I already know the world around me isn’t as shiny as I’d like it to be. But TV shows that promote helping others illustrates a reality we should all make a priority.



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